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Executive Function Deficiencies

"Executive Function" is a term used to describe a set of mental processes that helps us connect past experience with present action. We use executive function when we perform such activities as planning, organizing, strategizing and paying attention to and remembering details.

People with executive function problems as having difficulty with planning, organizing and managing time and space. They also show weakness with "working memory" (or "seeing in your mind's eye"), which is an important tool in guiding one's actions.

As with other manifestations of LD, disorders in executive function can run in families. Problems can be seen at any age but tend to be increasingly apparent as children move through the early elementary grades; the demands of completing schoolwork independently can often trigger signs that there are difficulties in this area.



How Does Executive Function Affect Learning?


In school, at home or in the workplace, we're called on all day, every day, to self-regulate behavior. Normally, features of executive function are seen in our ability to:

  • make plans
  • keep track of time
  • keep track of more than one thing at once
  • meaningfully include past knowledge in discussions
  • engage in group dynamics
  • evaluate ideas
  • reflect on our work
  • change our minds and make mid-course and corrections while thinking, reading and writing
  • finish work on time
  • ask for help
  • wait to speak until we're called on
  • seek more information when we need it.

These skills allow us to finish our work on time, ask for help when needed, wait to speak until we're called on and seek more information. 



Problems with executive function may be manifested when a person:

  • has difficulty planning a project
  • has trouble comprehending how much time a project will take to complete
  • struggles to tell a story (verbally or in writing); has trouble communicating details in an organized, sequential manner
  • has difficulty with the mental strategies involved in memorization and retrieving information from memory
  • has trouble initiating activities or tasks, or generating ideas independently
  • has difficulty retaining information while doing something with it; e.g., remembering a phone number while dialing.